Japan sets record $52 billion military budget with stealth jets, long-range missiles
From Tim Kelly
TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga's government approved a ninth straight increase in military spending on Monday and funded the development of an advanced stealth fighter and long-range anti-ship missile to counter China's growing military power.
The Department of Defense will receive a record 5.34 trillion yen ($ 51.7 billion) for the year as of April, up 1.1% from this year. With Suga's large majority in parliament, the adoption of the budget is far from certain.
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Suga continues the controversial military expansion of its predecessor Shinzo Abe to give the Japanese armed forces new aircraft, missiles, and aircraft carriers with greater range and strength against potential enemies including neighboring China.
China plans to increase its military spending by 6.6% this year, the smallest increase in three decades.
Japan is buying long-range missiles and is considering arming and training its military to hit remote land targets in China, North Korea, and other parts of Asia.
A planned jet fighter, the first in three decades, is expected to cost around $ 40 billion and be ready by the 2030s. The project, led by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd with help from Lockheed Martin Corp, will receive a new budget of $ 706 million.
Japan will spend $ 323 million to begin development of a long-range anti-ship missile to defend its southwestern chain of islands in Okinawa.
Other major purchases include $ 628 million for six Lockheed F-35 stealth fighters, including two short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) B variants powered by a converted helicopter aircraft.
The military will also receive $ 912 million to build two compact warships that can operate with fewer sailors than conventional destroyers, easing pressure on a Navy struggling to recruit recruits from an aging population.
Japan also wants two new warships to carry powerful new Aegis airborne and anti-ballistic missile radars three times the size of older models. The government has not yet estimated the cost of the plan, which replaces a project to build two Aegis land stations that was canceled in June.
($ 1 = 103,3100 yen)
(Reporting by Tim Kelly; Editing by William Mallard)
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